525. So Many Questions About the COVID Response

A U.S. Senate committee hearing room in Washington, D.C., on July 18, 2017. (Katherine Welles/Shutterstock)

Jeffrey A. Tucker

February 7, 2023


About 18 months ago, there was some chatter in Washington about a COVID commission that would examine the wild response and evaluate its good and bad features and make recommendations for the future. From the looks of it at the time, it seemed pretty obvious where it was going. In effect, it was going to be a cover-up, just government and industry leaders and anointed “experts” touting their wise decision-making while offering some mild tweaks for the future.

The commission never formed. Why not? Pretty simple: absolutely no one would have believed it. There are too many people now wise as to the incredible screwups. We have all the receipts. The time for a whitewash really did pass them by. So the next step in this was just to forget about it. Pretend like it never happened. Never mind that we dwell amidst the astonishing carnage from inflation to labor displacement to youth demoralization to massive excess deaths and ill-health.

Still they wanted to move on. To be sure, other countries have formed commissions and produced reports. Most were weak but they were not entirely devoid of criticisms. It’s a good start. In the United States, we’ve seen some pathetic attempts within the CDC to say “whoops” more or less but only then recommend pathetic changes like more “communication” and “coordination.”

Mostly, the people who did this to us want it to go away.

That now becomes impossible. Some of the nations’ leading epidemiologists and scientists have just published a very robust document that presents the essential template for a serious COVID commission. The document lays it all out in a very organized way. They cover all the bases. After each section, they offer what amounts to perhaps a thousand questions that cry out for answers.

The document is “Questions for a COVID-19 Commission” authored by The Norfolk Group. You can see one author’s commentary. They have a website which allows you to download the entire PDF. You can also buy a coil-bound version and send to your representative while demanding answers.

The authors worked on this detailed 80-page document for perhaps 8 months, and the efforts show. It is comprehensive. If followed, we might finally get some answers concerning what happened to our rights and liberties and how it is that the bureaucracies at all levels came to rule our lives so completely and so incompetently, while the media played along and tech companies censored competing views.

The authors are:

  • Jay Bhattacharya, M.D., Ph.D.; epidemiologist, health economist, and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine; founding fellow of the Academy of Science and Freedom.
  • Leslie Bienen, MFA, DVM; veterinarian, zoonotic disease researcher, and faculty member at Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health (through Dec. 31st, 2022). She left in January 2023 to work in healthcare policy.
  • Ram Duriseti, M.D., Ph.D.; emergency room physician and computational engineer for medical decision making; associate professor at Stanford School of Medicine.
  • Tracy Beth Høeg, M.D., Ph.D.; physician and Ph.D. epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California-San Francisco, clinical researcher in healthcare policy and practicing Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician.
  • Martin Kulldorff, Ph.D., FDhc; epidemiologist and biostatistician; professor of medicine at Harvard University (on leave); founding fellow of the Academy of Science and Freedom.
  • Marty Makary, M.D., MPH; surgeon and healthcare policy scientist; professor at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Margery Smelkinson, Ph.D.; infectious disease scientist and microscopist whose research predominantly focuses on host/pathogen interactions.
  • Steven Templeton, Ph.D.; immunologist; associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.

All of them are highly credentialed and experienced, and they did the hard work of putting the document together. That said, they are speakers for thousands and tens of thousands of specialists in the area of public health and infectious diseases, none of whom were consulted when our overlords decided to shut down the whole country including hospitals, schools, businesses, churches, and everything else.

In just a few fateful days, only a handful of people had decision-making power and they dished it out to the rest of us based on unbearably faulty modeling, which was followed by faulty thinking over masks and then ill-tested and faulty shots that were later mandated to multitudes.

If there is not a thorough commission examining how all this came to be, the country is more broken than I thought.

The preamble states the issue clearly:

“America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic failed on many levels of government and in many aspects. Certainly, deaths are unavoidable during a pandemic. However, too many U.S. policy makers concentrated efforts on ineffective or actively harmful and divisive measures such as school closures that generated enormous societal damage without significantly lowering COVID-19 mortality, while failing to protect high-risk Americans. As a result, Americans were hard hit both by the disease and by collateral damage generated by misguided pandemic strategies and decisions that ignored years of pandemic preparation guidance crafted by numerous public health agencies, nationally and internationally.

“Many crucial mistakes were made early on, in January, February, and early March 2020, and not corrected later. Mistakes made during this early critical window at the beginning of the pandemic affected our ability to collect data about COVID-19 and protect those most at risk and laid the groundwork for loss of public trust and confusion. These oversights led to unnecessary morbidity and mortality, particularly in nursing homes, and a lack of much-needed medical supplies, reagents for testing, and required medications. Delays in initiating research on key questions such as effectiveness of therapeutics, modes of transmission, length of infective periods, and other questions, meant that policy decisions were based on assumptions rather than on solid data. To this day, many of these questions have not been adequately addressed through robust trials.”

It covers ten major areas:

  1. Protecting High Risk Americans
  2. Infection Acquired Immunity
  3. School Closures
  4. Collateral Lockdown Harms
  5. Public Health Data and Risk Communication
  6. Epidemiologic Modeling
  7. Therapeutics and Clinical Interventions
  8. Vaccines
  9. Testing and Contact Tracing
  10. Masks

To give you a flavor, let’s just look at #4 and some of the burning questions:

  • Why did lab scientists such as NIH Director Francis Collins, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, and CDC Director Robert Redfield ignore the important knowledge, insights, experiences and warnings from Dr. Donald Henderson, a public health giant?
  • Early in the pandemic, another preeminent infectious disease epidemiologist, Dr. Sunetra Gupta at Oxford University, voiced similar early warnings as Dr. Henderson. Why were her concerns dismissed and ignored?
  • Why was so much influence on public health policy accorded to Drs. Collins and Fauci? They control the largest source of infectious disease research funding in the world. How many infectious disease scientists, who should have been strong voices during the pandemic, kept quiet for fear of losing the research funding on which their livelihood depends?
  • In April 2020, emergency department visits dropped by 50 percent. They recovered somewhat in subsequent months, but were still 34 percent below normal at the end of 2020. How many people died because they did not go to an emergency department when they needed treatment?
  • A fundamental principle of public health is to consider all of health rather than focus on a single disease such as COVID-19. Why were lockdowns implemented without consideration of their negative effects on other diseases and health states? Why did the government not conduct either a formal or informal cost-benefit analysis of lockdown strategies?
  • Are there any systematic attempts by the CDC or NIH to collate deaths and other health consequences of deferred or miss? Why were mental health and addiction services suspended without considering potential consequences of service removal?
  • Why were activities and sports for low-risk young people suspended without considering the harms of isolation and lack of physical activity?
  • Why were known harms of increased screen time for young people ignored?
  • Why was poor availability of mental health services not taken into account when imposing isolation on children, young adults and the elderly?
  • During the pandemic, why were there so few attempts to measure mental health parameters that are more sensitive than suicidality and suicide?
  • How will we evaluate and compare short and long-term mental health and longevity of people in low versus high lockdown areas?
  • Anxiety and depression increased during the 2020 lockdowns. CDC data show that, in 2021, 37 percent of American high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44 percent reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year compared to 36.7 percent in 2019. Why did public health authorities not consider such adverse effects? What is now being done to address and treat this problem?
  • There have been substantial increases in substance abuse during the pandemic, with especially devastating impacts on underserved communities. How much did social isolation, unemployment, and termination or online only availability of support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous contribute to this?
  • Eating disorders increased during lockdowns, at least through the end of 2021. Why were treatment centers for eating disorders closed or virtual only for so long in many states? What are CDC and state health departments doing to alleviate this problem?
  • How many people had a cancer diagnosis delayed during the pandemic? What did the CDC and state health departments do to avoid this problem? What have they done to ensure catch ups with cancer screenings?
  • What will be the toll on future cancer mortality due to delayed cancer diagnoses?
  • What is the toll in terms of longer and more expensive cancer treatment due to delayed cancer diagnoses?

We could go on and on but you get the point. The beauty of this document is its organization and comprehensive approach. Congressional committees need this and they simply do not have the expertise to assemble. So these scientists have done a great public service at absolutely no personal financial gain to themselves. God bless them. This document could save what is left of our liberties and help to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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